Litter laws

Littering, illegal dumping, and driving with uncovered loads are all punishable under Washington state law. Each year, 12 million pounds of litter is dropped on Washington's roads and highways. About 40 percent of that trash comes from unsecured loads, leading to 400 traffic crashes per year. Washington requires motorists to prevent litter by covering their loads. The law imposes fines for people caught littering.

Litter fines

Littering is punishable by fines ranging from $50 to $5,000 in Washington. The largest fines are for “lit debris” —primarily cigarettes — and for large items that can cause accidents. Failing to secure a load in a manner that injures another person can also result in the motorist being charged with a gross misdemeanor, bringing a fine and up to a year in jail.

The law (RCW 70.93.060) sets minimum fines for littering and illegal dumping. Local police departments, sheriff's offices, or health departments carry out most enforcement of litter law and many cities and counties have adopted local ordinances that are stricter than the state law.

For more information on local litter enforcement, contact your local police department, sheriff’s office, or city or county clerk to find what laws apply in your area.

Cover your load

Washington law requires motorists to cover and secure their loads (RCW 46.61.655) to prevent cargo from breaking free.

Items falling out of trucks and off of cars cause serious accidents every year in Washington. The AAA Foundation released a report estimating that 200,000 accidents a year result from unsecured loads and debris from vehicles in North America. Because of this danger, Washington law requires cargo to be secured by tarps, netting, or other tie-down materials.

Cover your load tip sheets

Videos:

Secure your load, 2007
Everyone's Watching, 2007